Ever happen to you that you are walking down an urban street and suddenly you see people all dressed up in fantastic regalia as characters in comic books, popular movies or television shows? If you have, you can be sure that there is an event like the Star Trek Convention, or The Star Wars Celebration, or Comic-Con happening near by. Leviosa is a Harry Potter convention. There is HobbitCon in Germany. Fans invest a lot of time, money and emotion in their passion for their favorite stories. It is understandable. But in Future Thinking, a new play by Eliza Clark, now in its premiere run at South Coast Repertory, a fan crosses the line.
Peter Ford (the excellent Arye Gross), a fiftyish fan, who loves a television show called “Odyssey,” has dressed up as the character “Gregor.” At lights up, Peter is being held in a hotel room that has been converted into a kind of a security holding-pen, where he has been brought by Chief of Security, Jim Barnard (Enver Gjokaj), a stiff, self-controlled guy with ambitions of becoming a police officer. Peter has crossed a serious line. The year before he was slapped by a restraining order for an incident that occurred at the autograph booth of Chiara Farrow (Virginia Vale) who plays the role of “Sabrina,” a warrior, in “Odyssey.” This year he defied the order, which has led to his current situation.
Chiara is a young woman who has been raised in show business by her mother, the ambitious-but-not-hateful Crystal (sympathetic Heidi Dippold). Now, at twenty-three, Chiara, managed by her mother, is attempting the transition from child star to adult actress. She is willful and often behaves like the immature person she is, demanding and tempestuous. She, despite having travelled the world with her mother, is remarkably limited in knowledge and experience. It is sadly noted that this show-biz veteran has never been camping.
Rounding out the cast of characters, her bodyguard, Sandy Mills (Jud Williford), a Marine Corps veteran and former police officer, is, unsurprisingly, having an affair with Crystal.
Future Thinking, superbly staged by director Lila Neugebauer and performed by an excellent cast, is a bit of a conundrum. The script is well written and entertaining, but has problems. The first act needs editing. It has loads of character exposition, is often wordy and never quite finds its heart. That happens in the second act, buoyed by the passionate playing of Mr. Grossman. And when Chiara and Peter finally meet face-to-face, the scene is electric and utterly absorbing, making the audience pin-drop attentive.
The production values, as always at South Coast Rep, are impeccable. The scenic design by Dane Laffrey (lit by Lap Chi Chu) is extraordinary in its cleverness. The standard, up-scale hotel rooms, three of them distinctly different, are completely accurate representations. The first scene change from the holding pen to Chiara’s room happens aburply in total darkness with very loud, aggressively mechanical music playing (sound design by Stowe Nelson). The suddenness and completeness of the change left the audience collectively gasping, and wondering, “How did they do that?” We find out later. The old bromide, “all will be revealed,” applies here.
The costume design by Melissa Trn supports character and situation. I especially like the “Odyssey” costumes with Peter’s endearingly homemade and Chiara’s appropriately sleek and glittery.
Future Thinking runs through April 24 on South Coast Repertory’s Segerstrom Stage in Cost Mesa.